10 ways to be a Watcher

January 23, 2010

1. Find a crowded public area, it can be densely or sparsely populated, and find a seat. My favorite places to write poems were city plazas between skyscrapers in Chicago. So many people walking by! Observe people interacting and imagine what’s going on.

2. Go out with your friends but don’t say much. Be part of the hum of friendliness and camaraderie but don’t feel you have to contribute to conversation. Feel the warmth of being in a group but enjoy solitude within it. I used to stress out about when to jump in with a thought into all the talking, but I also learned to just be comfortable within the simple feeling of companionship rather than interaction.

3. Look closely at people’s faces. Sometimes they tell more of a story than their words do.

4. Listen. Listen beyond the surface level. If you close your eyes, or leave them open but not focused on anything in particular, the world presents its sound in stereo. Listen with the ears of a musician. There are many levels to the sound around you; general chatter, the hum of electricity, traffic, the clink of objects, footsteps, airplanes; so much to hear. See how the sudden sounds of a dog bark, baby cry, ambulance, or construction act as punctuation, how they elicit an emotional response.

5. Try to watch without judgement. Or at least try to judge fairly if your mind jumps to conclusions. Guess what people’s back stories might be, and what the opposite of each story might be. By opposite I mean imagine that your preconceived notion is actually something in an entirely different light. The mean looking punk guy could be a sweet daddy; or the strung out looking girl a single mom who only has an hour free to run her errands.

6. Feel as one with nature; what does the air feel like, the temperature on your skin. Look at the trees, grass, leaves, and flowers, and the state of them. How does the weather affect your mood, and the way others are acting? Draw abstract parallels between the small events of nature and the moments of life.

7. Watch your own thoughts. The most interesting ideas are those fleeting, off the wall ones that are the stuff of inventions, new patents, and runaway best seller plots. It’s these fleeting thoughts, the nexus points of all previous thought, that must be captured. Often you’ll see this special thought echoed in something someone else wrote and you’ll think, why didn’t I nail that down on paper first? Dig deep into your psyche for these interesting thoughts.

8. Watch TV. Hey, sometimes your brain has to rest! Has to be taken for a ride and shown how it’s done. Whether it’s an inspiring Imax 3d film, or that dumb sitcom that’s just good for a cheap laugh (that makes you see the exaggerated foibles of humanity and makes you glad no one acts like that in reality.) Your brain benefits from the connections made.

9. Often take your perspective back, way back. See the vast universe and the small speck of lonely earth, and the intricate patterns of humans, and yourself, the individual. See yourself in the flow of time in relation to the deep past and long future. Observe how that colors how you see everything.

10. Immerse yourself in the watchful revelations of others before you by reading books, visiting art museums, and hearing live music. Come out of Watcher mode and share and interact with them if possible. Congratulate the band on a great performance, sign the artist’s gallery guest book, post comments to the author’s blog. You’ll be inspired and deepen your metaphoric vocabulary.

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4 Responses to “10 ways to be a Watcher”

  1. Lisa Estus Says:

    Intriguing meditation!


  2. Agnes, your suggestions remind me of the value of being an introvert, and a moody person.

    It’s nice to be reminded.

  3. J Says:

    An enjoyable read -I like the suggestions for people-watching, as well as watching the world, and simply being more aware 🙂


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